The Team Themis Files


Nate Anderson of Ars Technica has the most complete account I've seen of HBGary Federal's plot to take down WikiLeaks through various underhanded means, including targeting Glenn Greenwald. The story also covers a parallel proposal to do covert work for the Chamber of Commerce, the question of how deeply involved HBGary's partner firms of Palantir and Berico were in the schemes, and the creepy ways Aaron Barr of HBGary tried to drum up business for his company. Highly recommended.

NEXT: At This Rate, All Crimes Will Soon Be Committed By TV Cops

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Palantir? Isn’t that the crystal ball thingee from The Lord of the Rings?

    1. Pardon me but wasn’t that whole post gibberish?

      1. Read all 72,000 emails here. It’s Anonleaks first release but not last.

    2. Yes. Specifically, it’s the evil crystal ball thingie controlled by Sauron, and was one of the things that he used to spy on and ultimate corrupt Saruman.

      It’s… it’s a weirdly revealing choice of names for a company. Like, the image of it from the movie is of the crystal ball being filled with the eye of Sauron, and being this corrupting lure kind of like the Ring.

      While I’m sure that relatively few people get the reference, it wouldn’t be my choice of name for a company that people might imagine to be creepy. Seems like a poor PR move.

      Here’s a movie sequence involving the palantir:

      1. Specifically, it’s the evil crystal ball thingie controlled by Sauron, and was one of the things that he used to spy on and ultimate corrupt Saruman.

        Specifically, it’s a crystal ball thingee made by the Noldor (Elves) that seven of which were brought from N?menor by Elendil after its fall.

        Sauron had captured the one from Minas Ithil (later Minas Morghul), but he did not completely control it. It could not be made to show things that were false, only to lead people to the wrong conclusions despite having true data (an interesting metaphor for Palantir Technologies, perhaps). He also could not spy with it unless someone else chose to look into a palantir.

        The people at the company don’t know the difference between Sindarin and Quenya, or cirth and tengwar, as I mentioned before, so I’m not sure how much they thought about their name.

        1. I’d be more impressed if your comment had been posted in the original Quenya.

          1. I agree but am impressed nonetheless.

            1. I always thought it would be funny for a company to market itself as evil. Not really be evil, of course, which, among other things, would be actionable and not good for business. But a Sauron clothing line might be amusing for a while.

              1. Not really be evil, of course, which, among other things, would be actionable

                Not necessarily. Evil =/= illegal.

                and not good for business.

                As long as you kept your evil pointing away from your clients, I don’t see why.

                1. The media would love a company marketed as evil. They could do special after special after special about what the company was up to, downplaying claims that it wasn’t actually evil.

                  One angle would be for a company to be openly capitalist and anti-government. That’s not evil at all, of course, but the media and the left wouldn’t see it that way.

          2. I was just annoyed when I was talking to the Palantir guys and they said that their later version could read and write Elvish, but they looked at me blankly when I asked if they meant Quenya or Sindarin, and cirth or tengwar. I assume that they just meant it could handle tengwar script.

          3. Gahhhhhh, not Quenya. Tolkien is difficult enough to read

            1. What kind of school did you attend that you aren’t fluent in Quenya?

              1. The school of “if you make this shit impossible to read, I’m not interested”

                1. No Latin, either? Kids these days!

        2. Granted, the Palantirs were not originally evil or tools of Sauron. But if few people get the name reference at all, an even smaller number are going to be sufficiently into the background lore of Middle Earth to pick up that point. That’s all out of the Silmarillion, isn’t it?

          I mean, I could imagine, being the huge nerd that I am, saying, “I’m going to name my security company after the Palantir. I mean, not the Palantirs after Sauron corrupted them, but the original versions.” I just can’t imagine immediately following up that thought with, “Wait, that’s still a pretty creepy image. Am I implying that it’s my company’s fate to be used for evil? And am I really going to be able to explain why I’m totally not creepy if someone who’s just seen the movies picks up the reference?”

          1. That’s all out of the Silmarillion, isn’t it?

            No, the seven stones and Elendil fleeing with them are mentioned in the main books as well as the appendices to same, as is the fact that Sauron couldn’t make the stones actually lie, etc.

            The books also mention that Aragorn was so bad-ass and the rightful king that he could look into a palantir and not suffer ill effects, so perhaps the Palantir guys seem themselves that way.

            1. I can’t stand half-assed geeking out. If you name your company that, you need to go all the way.

          2. I call BS. If you were really the huge nerd that you claim, you’d know that the plural of palantir is palantiri, not palantirs, and use that. 🙂

            Though for extra pedantic points, it’s palant?r and palant?ri, but accent marks are annoying.

            1. I bow to the huger nerd. 🙂

          3. Ya it’s even creepier when you consider the subtleties and the history of the situation than if it was just a straight up evil-from-the-get-go creation.

      2. I think they were originally okay, but perverted by Sauron later. However, I think you’re right–it’s a tainted name. Like Mordor Productions.

        1. The Palantir became corrupted by their reliance on the Windows 7 operating system. Everybody knows that.

          1. Oh, please. Windows 7 is evidence that MS has repudiated evil (well, mostly) in its OS.

            The elves, of course, operate in pure UNIX, corrupted by men in the inferior Linux OS.

            1. The Dwarves still refer to Windows 95 as Durin’s Bane.

              1. Ah, the Memhog, cursed be its name.

                1. So much win.

                  1. wow…just wow. I should have been on this thread hours ago. My two cents:
                    I think, since it is a tech security company and therefore populated by uber nerds, that they knew exactly what they were naming the company. I am also willing to be that someone in that company does speak at least two dialects of elvish.

                    1. I was founded by uber libertarian nerd (and Reason friend/interviewee) Peter Thiel, who is still Chairman of the Board, and some of his various friends, including some other Seasteading guys. The Seasteading Institute guys used to use Palantir office space for a while.

                    2. Thiel has claimed that the goal was to found a security company that could help the government but do so in a way that civil liberties were respected and protections built into their software. So perhaps they simply had the arrogance to assume that they, like Aragorn, could look into the palantir safely, but as this demonstrates it turns out that in reality they’re no better than Steward Denethor, or at worst the Ishtari Saruman.

                    3. Istari, not Ishtari. Ishtari would be something different.

                    4. Which is why they should’ve used a different name! Set themselves up for failure, if you ask me.

  2. Because it isn’t racist when we do it.

    As you know, I find black garbage pail kids black conservatives fascinating not because of what they believe, but rather because of how they entertain and perform for their White Conservative masters.


    We always need a monkey in the window, for he/she reminds us of our humanity while simultaneously reinforcing a sense of our own superiority. Sadly, there are always folks who are willing to play that role because it pays so well.


    Herman Cain?an ironic name if ever, and one more suited to a tragic figure in a Harlem Renaissance era novella?is not “blackening twice” as some race minstrels chose to do.


    Herman Cain’s shtick is a version of race minstrelsy where he performs “authentic negritude” as wish fulfillment for White Conservative fantasies.…..-for-cpac/

    1. Alternet is the progressive id.

  3. This one is funnier……..-price.ars

    1. Fuckin’ internet, how does it work ahhh fuck it’s here.

    2. I read that yesterday. Now that’s some serious funny. Between teh internets speak from a corporate executive and the groveling of a CEO to teenage geeks, I snickered mightily.

  4. the creepy ways Aaron Barr of HBGary tried to drum up business for his company

    I never trusted him after that whole Alexander Humilton thing…

    1. Or when he went to Haiti for Baby Doc…

  5. So what you’re saying is, if I put the personal details of my entire life on Facebook, other people might be able to see it?

  6. It’s unclear from the article what Barr brought to the table, skillwise. His cyber stalking methods look fairly run-of-the-mill. His attitude and his ideas of what to do with the info launch him right into major sleaze territory but I’m not impressed.

    1. His cyber stalking methods look fairly run-of-the-mill.

      I think that makes him creepier. I read these stories & I imagine a sad-sack trying to monetize his cyberstalking hobby.

      1. That’s exactly how I pictured him.

  7. “What amazes me is, for a security company – you had such a basic SQL vulnerability on your website,”

    Let me guess, port 1433 open with a blank ‘SA’ password. That’s so 1990s.

  8. Coder: No it won’t. It will tell you how mindless their friends are at clicking stupid shit that comes up on a friends page. especially when they first join facebook.

    Barr: What? Yes it will. I am running throug analysis on the anonymous group right now and it definately would.

    Coder: You keep assuming you’re right, and basing that assumption off of guilt by association.

    Barr: Noooo?.its about probabilty based on frequency…c’mon ur way smarter at math than me.

    Coder: Right, which is why i know your numbers are too small to draw the conclusion but you don’t want to accept it. Your probability based on frequency right now is a gut feeling. Gut feelings are usually wrong.

    Barr: [redacted]

    Coder: [some information redacted] Yeah, your gut feelings are awesome! Plus, scientifically proven that gut feelings are wrong by real scientist types.

    Barr: [some information redacted] On the gut feeling thing…dude I don’t just go by gut feeling…I spend hours doing analysis and come to conclusions that I know can be automated…so put the taco down and get to work!

    Coder: I’m not doubting that you’re doing analysis. I’m doubting that statistically that analysis has any mathematical weight to back it. I put it at less than .1% chance that it’s right. You’re still working off of the idea that the data is accurate. mmmm?..taco!

    I already like his Coder. I can also tell you [based on personal experience] that the coder got a bad performance review right before Barr’s cunning plan went tits up.

    1. The coder sounds awesome.

  9. hires people to do this. Maybe Aaron Barr can find work there.…..xting.html

  10. If the government could come and an ensure start up companies did not face pressure to sign contracts all this would never have happened.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.